Eagles

New Eagle Marcus Smith surprised to go in 1st round

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New Eagle Marcus Smith surprised to go in 1st round

Virtually nobody had Marcus Smith going in the first round. Nobody except the Eagles.

And Smith thinks he knows why.

“Maybe because of my junior film,” Smith said after the Eagles selected him with the 26th pick in the NFL draft (see story).

“Maybe they thought this was just a one-year thing -- ‘He busted on the scene.’ Maybe because I didn't do well my junior year, only had four sacks.

“A lot of people kind of brushed me to the side.”

You’re not the only one surprised the Eagles took Smith in the first round.

He was, too.

"I had a feeling I would [go in the first round], but I didn't know exactly,” the newest Eagle said from Louisville late Thursday night. “I was looking at maybe early second, maybe even the third round.”

Smith (see bio), whose 14½ sacks as a senior ranked second in NCAA Division I, wasn’t projected anywhere nearly as high as the top two pass-rushing outside linebackers, Khalil Mack of Buffalo, who went fifth to the Raiders, and Anthony Barr of UCLA, who went No. 9 to the Vikings.

But Smith said he knows he can be the same kind of player in the NFL as Mack and Barr.

"I'm pretty much the same as those guys,” he said. “I can rush the passer and drop into coverage. I feel like I'm very athletic. I feel like I could have gone where those guys went as far as my talent goes, but I know how the draft goes. All you've got to do is get one team to love you, and I know the Eagles will take care of me.

“Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr are great players. I watched them on film a lot and some things they do I tried to take from them so I could add them to my game.”

Smith, who just turned 22 on March 31, played all over the defense at Louisville but was mainly a defensive end.

With the Eagles, he’ll play outside rush linebacker in Billy Davis’s 3-4 scheme.

The Eagles ranked 20th in the NFL with 32 sacks last year, 15 of which came in three games.

Connor Barwin and Trent Cole are currently penciled in as the starting outside linebackers, but Smith said he expects to contribute right away. Even though he’s still new to the position and really still new to playing defense.

"I know for a fact they want me to rush and go get the quarterback,” Smith said late Thursday night. “I can be a double-digit sack guy. Once I get into camp and get rolling and get into the groove, I really believe I can be that guy. I really do."

Smith, 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, began his college career as a quarterback, but that didn’t last very long.

"There were two seniors in front of me my freshman year and I wasn't getting a lot of reps and I wasn't doing too well throwing the ball,” he said.

“Coach [Charlie] Strong asked if I wanted to play defense, and I said I'll do whatever it takes to get on the field. We were in two-a-days, and the second practice that day he put me on defense and I never went back.”

That could help explain why Smith didn’t really make an impact early in his college career.

But Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said Smith’s upside is one of the things that was appealing to the Eagles, and Smith said he feels like he still has a ton of improvement to make.

"It took me a year to settle in coming from quarterback to linebacker because I had to get the mentality of a defensive player, knocking people off on that side of the ball,” he said.

“I've gotten better each year and this year had an outbreak and feel like I can carry everything I did this year into the NFL. I want to make an impact right away and I know the coaches in Philly can get me ready for this season coming up.”

Smith is the first linebacker the Eagles have drafted in the first round in 35 years, since Jerry Robinson out of UCLA in 1979.

He said he has plenty of experience dropping back in coverage, something outside linebackers need to do in Davis’s scheme.

“I believe they dropped me about 50-50,” he said. “Maybe not as much my junior year but last year they dropped me more. Going into the middle of the season I started rushing a lot more because they wanted somebody to get to the quarterback, but I was doing both.

“I've gotten better each year and this year had an outbreak and feel like I can carry everything I did this year into the NFL. I want to make an impact right away.

"I think I have not reached my full potential yet. I continually trying to work every day. I know I have a lot of stuff to polish up and a lot of stuff I have to work on. I think once I get around the right people an around the league I'll be the great player that I want to be.”

Judge grants Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott reprieve, cleared for 49ers in Week 7

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Judge grants Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott reprieve, cleared for 49ers in Week 7

NEW YORK -- Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott has been granted another legal reprieve in the running back's fight to avoid a six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.

A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order blocking the league's suspension Tuesday night, clearing Elliott to play Sunday at San Francisco.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty's ruling comes five days after a federal appeals court overturned a Texas court's injunction that had kept Elliott on the field this season.

Crotty granted the request for a temporary restraining order pending a hearing before the presiding judge, Katherine Polk Fialla.

Elliott, last year's NFL rushing leader as a rookie, was barred from the team's facility Tuesday as players returned from their off week. The NFL placed him on the suspended list Friday, a day after the ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The Eagles visit Dallas in Week 11 on Sunday night, Nov. 19. They host the Cowboys in Week 17 on New Year’s Eve.

NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles can taste top spot

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NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles can taste top spot

After beating up on the Cardinals, 34-7 in Week 5, the Eagles traveled to North Carolina for a Thursday night matchup against the Panthers. The Birds would use another composed and meticulous performance from Carson Wentz to sneak past the Panthers, 28-23.

Wentz finished with 222 passing yards and three touchdowns — backing up his best performance of the season so far in Week 5 against the Cardinals.

A victory over the Panthers puts the Birds at 5-1. They now hold the best record in the NFC and a 1.5-game lead in the NFC East over the Redskins who sit at 3-2.

Now the Eagles shift their attention to Washington, which is coming off of a 26-24 victory over the 49ers.

Before the Birds host Washington on Monday night, here's a roundup of where the Eagles landed in this week's national power rankings:

ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio: Up three spots to No. 2
Florio wrote, “Carson Wentz needs to avoid contact, or the Eagles won’t be able to avoid having to play multiple games without him.”

Wentz has been hit a total of 41 times this season on dropbacks, the eighth most in the NFL. And that doesn’t include the number of times he has been hit when running. Wentz has to err on the side of caution when it comes to getting hit because the Eagles would take a huge hit in performance, morale and confidence if he were to be out for a significant amount of time.

NFL.com's Elliot Harrison: Stayed at No. 2
Harrison wrote, “Two things I like — LeGarrette Blount getting 14 carries. Keep working him. Also, Nelson Agholor contributing big plays including the touchdown reception to end a second-half drive.”

Agholor received a lot of criticism the past two seasons because of his inability to catch the football and deservedly so. He has had a solid start to the season thus far. In total, he has caught 20 balls on 30 targets for 321 yards and four touchdowns. The four touchdowns through six games this season are more than his total in his previous 28 games (three). Agholor has become a large part of the passing offense along with tight end Zach Ertz. Don’t expect it to change.

USA TODAY: Up three spots to No. 2
USA TODAY wrote, “Fletcher Cox leads front four that anchors league's best run defense and consistently jeopardizes quarterbacks without much blitz help."

Cox has been invaluable for the Birds this season and as a result, the run defense is in the top five. In the four games he has played this season, he has six total tackles and 2.5 sacks. The Eagles haven’t been rushing more than four on most occasions and have been able to get to the quarterback with ease. Moving forward, Cox’s value is huge to disrupting opposing offenses because of his size and speed in the middle of the line.

Yahoo! Sports' Frank Schwab: Up two spots to No. 2
Schwab wrote, “A good argument can be made for them being No. 1. However, they played the No. 1 team and lost. It was a competitive game in Kansas City, but it’s still part of the resumes.”

Each rankings outlet used in this piece outside of The Washington Post is reluctant to put the Birds at the top spot. While losing to the Chiefs in a close one at Arrowhead could be the tiebreaker for most, I think it is worth considering the Eagles at No. 1. The Chiefs losing at home to a lost Steelers team is something to be taken note of for later.

CBS Sports' Pete Prisco: Up one spot at No. 2
Prisco wrote, “They are on a roll and showed at Carolina that they are one of the best teams right now. The defensive front is nasty.”

Last week, I wrote the game against Carolina was the Eagles’ biggest test thus far and they passed with flying colors. The game wasn’t as close as the score indicated because of a late Carolina touchdown. Cam Newton didn’t have any time to throw and his three interceptions came as a result of the defensive front for the Birds stepping up once again.

The Washington Post's Mark Maske: Up two spots to No. 1
Maske wrote, “They have earned the top spot after an impressive triumph Thursday night at Carolina. Second-year QB Carson Wentz is getting better all the time while utilizing the help he has around him on a bolstered offense.”

Maske had the guts to put the Birds at the top and they have earned it. The fact of the matter is rankers can’t come to terms with the Eagles at the top because of what happened last year after a 3-1 start. Waiting in the wings on Monday night is Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins, who are looking for revenge after an embarrassing performance against the Eagles in Week 1.

ESPN: Up two spots to No. 2
ESPN wrote, “The 5-1 start to the Eagles' season is bolstered by the fact they've won three on the road. Now they get to play their next three at home, where they're 2-0 this season and 8-2 over the past two years.”

Lincoln Financial Field has been good to the Eagles over the last two seasons and fans should expect the Linc to be filled to capacity on Monday night. The buzz surrounding the team continues to grow exponentially. Now all the Birds have to do is keep the momentum going.